Everyone Loves a Love Note

Jake and I are collaborating on a huge art installation for the Seattle Erotic Art Festival! It’s called Love Note, and it’s about writing, giving, and receiving love notes, something we are very fond of. Our piece will be one of the first things you’ll see from the entrance, at the end of the red carpet.


We’ve been honored with support from Western Bridge, the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, and SEAF (this is their first year awarding grants for interactive installations).

Today’s SEAF newsletter has an article about Love Note, by Clea Hersperger:

Love notes are a little-explored area in the context of erotic art. As part of the 2010 Festival, Ellen Forney and her partner Jacob Peter Fennell are creating an interactive installation about love notes, a literary form the long-distance lovers know well. Love Note’s participants write, give, and receive a love note via writing stations, an enormous bed with a variety of pillows, and notes left and found under the pillows.

Love notes can encompass a great variety of emotional expressions – sweet, raunchy, romantic, silly. What note awaits you? What will you write? Indulge!

They also posted a sweet interview which I am copying below because I heart it so much!

The Seattle Erotic Art Festival is April 30 – May 2 at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Tix here. Come! It’s really fun. (And we’ve been working our asses off!)

Interview with Ellen Forney and Jacob Peter Fennell
Lovers, Artists and Creators of Love Note

As part of the 2010 Festival, Ellen Forney and her partner Jacob Peter Fennell are creating Love Note, an interactive installation intended to evoke the passion, tenderness and sensuality of the individual Festival-goers.

Are you from Seattle?

Jake: I’m an Iowa boy, but was lured to the Northwest four years ago by my aunt who lives on Orcas Island. Now I live in Portland, with two long weekends per month in Seattle.

Ellen: I’m an East Coast transplant – born in New Jersey, raised in Philadelphia. I’ve lived in Seattle since 1989, now with two long weekends per month in Portland.

Why the two long weekends?

Ellen: Long distance relationship! We met last June, when I was teaching a comics intensive at the Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland. My teaching assistant was a recent MFA grad, and she invited a bunch of her former classmates to meet us for happy hour, including Jake. I was instantly charmed, and practically leaped over the table to get my hands into his curly hair. But, he played hard to get!

Jake: For three whole days.

Ellen: Three long days!

Jake: It was love at first sight for both of us, really.

What got you interested and involved in the Festival?

Ellen: I’ve had work in the Festival every year, and this year I was really excited to see the call for interactive installation grant applications. I’ve really wanted to do a significant art project with Jake.

Have you done art projects of this sort before?

Ellen: Subject-wise, yes – I recently did a two-page comic about Jake’s and my love notes – but my work has all been two-dimensional. Installation work is completely new to me. I think of the Festival as an opportunity for me to experiment with something new, and the organizers make me feel very supported in that.

My “Big Fuckin’ Hands” painting series was a new foray into doing oversized paintings. Those paintings debuted at the Festival in 2007, and now the public art I’m doing for Sound Transit’s Capitol Hill station is based on those paintings. So that kind of experimentation was very useful to me.

Jake: I have been creating installation art for a few years. Most of my work involves custom electronics and software, or video, animation, and sound.

I haven’t done a fine art project with a partner on this months-long scale. I am used to creating all myself even if I lose health and sleep to create it. Working with Ellen has challenged me to communicate my process better and in a manner that is respectful of both of our time and ideas.

Ellen: The process of working together on Love Note has been amazing.

Jake: We honed Love Note from a range of ideas and concepts that were mostly more complicated. Even our first Love Note concept had a Rube Goldberg machine delivery system. I think that was Ellen’s take on my engineering. The entire process has been a true collaboration. It hasn’t always been easy. We have had disagreements about details both big and small.

Ultimately, we created stronger solutions for each instance where we had a disagreement. It has been a rich and rewarding process. I feel blessed by such a fabulous partner, great friends, and benefactors who have helped us produce this piece.

What are your inspirations for Love Note?

Jake: Simple answer: my partner.

Ellen: We hide love notes for each other all the time. We’ve sent them in the mail, too.

Jake: Living in different cities, our connection is strengthened through tokens that we leave for each other. Each stroke in a handwritten love note is imbued with the intention of the author’s pen, and it makes a sort of portrait.

Ellen: I have strong feelings about handwriting, from my work in comics. Lettering on paper is intimate and expressive – is the handwriting fevered and loose, soft and dainty, earnest and clunky, confident and elaborate? Reading someone’s handwriting is almost like listening to them speak, or receiving their touch.

Jake: Email and text messages have been on the rise over the past few years, and handwritten letters have suffered in the exchange. I think social networking vehicles like Facebook are great for keeping a larger social network alive, but they don’t help much to keep a connection rich between lovers. Don’t get me wrong – Ellen and I have our sexts, too.

Where are you taking us? What story are you telling the viewer?

Jake: You tell us. Tell your lover. Tell yourself.

Ellen: I think we are taking the participants somewhere familiar, just asking them to pay attention in a different way. Love notes are a little-explored territory in the context of erotic art, so I’m excited to bring that to the Festival.

Jake: Our intent is that Love Note will draw out the passion, tenderness, and sensuality of the individual festival-goers, an energy they will bring out into the larger space through their own emotional reactions, by sharing the notes they received, and by encouraging others to participate in the project.

How do you define “erotic”?

Ellen: Jake! Noun!

Jake: Erotic is in the eye or mind of the beholder. I can find eroticism in the path of a butterfly’s flight, or a mathematical formula. [Moves hands through air, making an hourglass shape.] Erotic is that which inspires the notion of sexy.

Ellen: I will broaden my definition. I prefer to take “sexy,” “sensual,” “sensuous,” and “erotic” and roll them up into a big glowing cloud, and let them all rumble around. That cloud is what turns a person on, what lights them up. There are many ways to do that, and many ways to experience that.

People seem to expect a certain thing when they think of “erotic art.” How does your piece fit an erotic vision?

Jake: I must admit that I immediately think of sexually charged imagery, nudity likely, and kinky. Pondering it more, I realize that I have an initial expectation and see a broader reality.

Our piece builds on the participants’ conceptions of love, desire, and sexuality, which may be beautiful, or wholesome, or raunchy. We encourage the participants to deliver with the utmost sincerity, their desires.

What are you looking most forward to in this year’s Festival?

Jake: I am looking forward to experiencing it for the first time.

Ellen: I’m just out of my mind excited about the whole thing. Jake will need to hold my hand and remind me to breathe.

What is one thing you think is unexpectedly sexy?

Jake: Considering my answer to the interview question about how to define the erotic.

Ellen: Jake! I didn’t expect him at all, and he is resoundingly sexy.

Jake: I have to refine my answer: Ellen! I could not have conjured a better partner in my imagination.

More about Ellen and Jake:

Ellen Forney was selected to create two permanent large-scale murals for Sound Transit’s Capitol Hill station. An award-winning cartoonist, she is currently working on her graphic novel for Gotham/Penguin, and teaches comics at Cornish College of the Arts. www.ellenforney.com.

Jacob Peter Fennell is an interdisciplinary artist who specializes in interactive installations. Fennell runs FNL Design, a design studio that creates websites, animation, interactive programming, and custom electronics. Fennell earned his MFA from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. www.jacobfennell.com.

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